Tokyo to Kofu

April 11, 2007
Mood: Can ones ass actually fall off?

Kofu is known as the wine region of Japan. It's located in the mountains west of Tokyo and north of Mt. Fuji.

The next morning I had the same food as the night before because no one was up, and I knew those items were fair game. We chatted a little more and then I left with him at 8:30 as he went to work. But since I never really had the opportunity to pack my bags, and see how it all fit together before the actual trip, I spent the next hour and a half outside his place figuring out how to do it best, and what I didn't really need. I started my route and dropped by a post office to mail home the unneeded stuff just before hitting the mountains. (I didn't count the post expense into the $20.07 because it was stuff I had left in Japan, and wouldn't normally be necessary)

A beautiful temple amoungs the ugliness of Tokyo

Here is when a big change in my plans occurred. I was doing fine up the first mountains. I cruised down the other side, and winded in and out of expressway towns for a few hours. But when I hit the next mountains I just had no energy. My body had crashed, and I was starting to lose my focus and balance. I nearly careened into the guard rail, and found myself in the middle of the highway a few times. I had been drinking plenty of water because it's free at any convenience store or temple, but I needed food, and electrolytes. I wasn't actually that hungary but I knew I had just gone right past 'hungry' and my body was shutting down to some degree. I thought I could find some "expired" bread or something behind a 7-Eleven, and I looked around back at each one I passed. I was obviously desperate. i just didn't want to break my $20.07 (though I was beginning to doubt if it was possible while biking over the Japan Alps). Then I did the most embarrassing, idiotic thing. I saw a supermarket, and remembered that many supermarkets have tons of samples all over the store. I went in to search for free samples, but there were none in this market. I was heading out, but I couldn't help but be hypnotized by so much food. Finally the hunger hit me. It is hit so hard that before I knew it, I was walking purposefully through the isles looking for just the right thing with lots of protein that I didn't have to cook. I arrived in the canned fish isle, and saw a nice big can of salmon. I walked past it once and thought about my situation. I didn't think too hard, mind you, because my mind was already operating in flashes of cognition. I looked around for cameras, and casually put the can in my helmet, and then my pocket, and then walked out. I knew I wouldn't get caught in this tiny village and a supermarket with no cameras, but something didn't feel right. Only later when I was able to think again, did I realize what I had done. I swear it wasn't 'me'. I found a place by the side of the road that wasn't windy, and sat down, only to realize it was across the street from a police station. I moved down the road and found a stoop. i ate the salmon, bone and fishy water and all. It was not one of my noble moments. I felt like a vagrant.

I bike further, and didn't feel like I had got much energy out of the stolen goods, but I was able to start thinking again. I realized that, hey, didn't I just prove that I can't bike that far on only $20.07? I had wanted to show others that they need almost no money to travel, but I had just taken it to an extreme that no one would follow. So if this was going to happen everyday, or every other day, my point would be moot. I wouldn't be demonstrating anything except that, yes, it is possible to live like a vagrant thief. Beyond that, I was putting my health, and freedom at risk while carrying around over $2000 in Japanese yen in my wallet. What an idiot!

So I resolved to abandon the $20.07 budget and go get fed. I stopped at the first farmers stand I saw and amused a local be probably being the first foreigner he'd ever had in his shop. He called out his kids by saying "there's and American here" and I gave them all some American coins I still had.

I never quite got back my energy that day because I think I had taken my body into it's reserves. I ran out of energy completely as it was getting dark. I was on a highway going uphill, and I knew there was a 3 kilometer tunnel ahead. I gave up, and hitch-hiked up the mountain and through the tunnel. The guy who picked me up must have really wanted to because when I asked where he was going, he said he was actually driving the other direction but saw me and turned around! Wow! At that I asked him to just let me out there so he could get on his way, but he insisted on driving me a 'little further', 'little further'; always a 'little further'. Great! I finally told him to just drop me off in a parking lot we were passing, and I biked down the rest of the mountain at the speed of all the other cars.

My map solution was to buy a GPS. And I have come to love my GPS more than anything else. It's awesome! It only cost $200 and weighs almost nothing. It's the size of a thick mobile phone and is waterproof and backlit. It tells me each and every turn and finds me the coolest side streets and back road shortcuts that cars never go, and normal maps would never tell me about. I love it. So at the end of this humiliating, exhausting day, I turned off the highway to FINALLY find my first nice road since I started the trip. It was proof that I was finally outside the urban sprawl that Tokyo crates for 150 kilometers in all directions. It was dark, but I was biking alone, through peach tree vineyards on a rolling, quiet farm road. I passed wine vineyards, and cut through farming villages of only 4 or 5 houses. The whole time only 3 cars passed me in 30 minutes. Even though it was dark, this is what touring by bike is all about. Getting away from the traffic, and noise, and finding the side streets that truckers and commuters can't be bothered to take.

I showed up at the elementary school meeting point of for my next host, Lynn, and chatted up some kids while waiting for her to show up.

My host, Lynn

I found Lynn through Hospitality Club, and I'm very lucky to have met her. Not only is she a cool, and thinking person, but she also went to school in Sweden (where I want to attend grad school) and plans on going back. So I had lot of questions about university there, and she had lots of answers. She cooked up a spicy Thai dish that she brought back with her from a recent trip there, and we had a long conversation about travel, living abroad, and going to school abroad.


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